If you have yet to make friends with your kitchen, it’s time to get acquainted. Whether you are a new homeowner, a new wife, a new mom, or simply new to your kitchen, you can easily become a pro at making dinner with just a little practice, some planning ahead, and the highly necessary ability to laugh at yourself when your chicken looks like a hockey puck. Roll with it, and you’ll enjoy the process so much more.
The biggest issue most everyone faces in preparing dinner is not having a plan. If it’s 5:15pm and you have no idea what you and your family are having for dinner, chances are you’ll end up in the drive-thru or eating cereal… again. Honey Nut Cheerios made quite a dent in our grocery budget as newlyweds for the first few months. But as I learned what foods go together and what to always have around, cooking dinner actually became fun. Don’t you want that to be true of you? I promise it can be. If you have your kitchen stocked with a few basics and get some delicious and simple recipes under your belt (consider me your Simple Recipe Fairy), dinner is well within your reach any night of the week.
Below is a list of what to always have in your kitchen. Keep these things around all the time, and you’ve eliminated half of your dinner stress. I’ll share with you recipes that come from this last of staples, along with one or two ingredients to grab at the store on your way home from work or dance class. Fresh herbs, produce, and meat don’t always store well for a long time, so these are items you’ll want to buy around the day you cook them. I want you to enjoy making friends with your kitchen and love learning about food that is simple, easy to pronounce, and most importantly really tasty.
Oil – both extra virgin olive oil and a mild oil like canola or vegetable
Pasta – white and whole wheat in a variety of shapes
Rice – white, brown, and wild
Couscous – a tiny grain that takes five minutes to cook
Canned beans – black, kidney, garbanzo, and cannellini
Canned tomatoes – diced, crushed
Flour – white and whole wheat
Bread crumbs – plain and Italian
Chicken and vegetable stock in cans or boxes
Jarred tomato sauce
Kosher salt and black pepper
Dried herbs – rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano
Dried spices – cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, sesame seeds, crushed red pepper flake
Plain yogurt (plain does not mean vanilla)
Cheese – cheddar, mozzarella, feta
Nuts – almonds, walnuts
To get you started, this is a ridiculously fast black bean dip that can be used in a number of ways. It’s great as a snack with veggie sticks. I love to make a quesadilla with shredded cheddar cheese and a few dollops of this dip. Having folks over to watch football this fall? Throw this on the table with some tortilla chips, and watch your friends gobble it up. The best part? It takes two minutes, it’s good for you, it’s inexpensive, and it’s really tasty. I guess that’s a few best parts, but you get the idea.
Black Bean Dip
Ingredients from your kitchen:
can of black beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons salsa
a spoonful of sour cream
Ingredients to purchase:
juice of one lime